The First Sunday in Lent

Sundays are never days of fasting, because every Sunday is a little Pascha, a celebration of the Resurrection. Thus, as we have noted elsewhere, lenten Sundays are "in Lent" but not "of Lent." In fact, the Sundays in Lent are not counted in the forty days that make up the season. Thus, yesterday was the fourth day of Lent and tomorrow is the fifth day of Lent. Today is simply the First Sunday in Lent. This does not mean that lenten themes are forgotten or ignored, however. And so, the Sundays of our Full Homely Lent will be marked with foods that are appropriate in various ways to the season.

The Onion
rom The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Once upon a time there was a peasant woman and a very wicked woman she was. And she died and did not leave a single good deed behind. The devils caught her and plunged her into the lake of fire. So her guardian angel stood and wondered what good deed of hers he could remember to tell to God; 'She once pulled up an onion in her garden,' said he, 'and gave it to a beggar woman.' And God answered: 'You take that onion then, hold it out to her in the lake, and let her take hold and be pulled out. And if you can pull her out of the lake, let her come to Paradise, but if the onion breaks, then the woman must stay where she is.' The angel ran to the woman and held out the onion to her. 'Come,' said he, 'catch hold and I'll pull you out.' He began cautiously pulling her out. He had just pulled her right out, when the other sinners in the lake, seeing how she was being drawn out, began catching hold of her so as to be pulled out with her. But she was a very wicked woman and she began kicking them. 'I'm to be pulled out, not you. It's my onion, not yours.' As soon as she said that, the onion broke. And the woman fell into the lake and she is burning there to this day. So the angel wept and went away.

Dostoevsky's story calls to mind the wisdom of Saint David regarding the significance and potential of "the little things" in the Christian life. The pungent flavor of the humble onion, so useful in flavoring many different foods, is an apt metaphor for David's little things, and Dostoevsky's story extends the metaphor to parable. And so we nominate the onion as our Lenten food of the week. Here is an appropriately simple recipe for an onion tart.

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